Happy New Year!
New Living Room
We’re finally knocking out some of the long pending renovations to the downstairs at Casa. There’s still a bit more to do before Thanksgiving, including a new light fixture from Mission Studios for the dining room, but we knocked out the bulk of the flooring yesterday. Engineered hardwood Bamboo Toast (horizontal).
There are plenty of ‘before’ pictures floating around here and elsewhere, but here is the ‘during’:
And here is the ‘after’:
Update on streaming and cutting cords
I saw several articles yesterday on a new feature for the CBS All Access service where the authors seemingly saw a need to denigrate the entire service. The authors all seemed to be missing the boat about what it, and other similar efforts by the old-school TV networks, can and should do with cord cutters. Without exception they all seemed to be written by people who’d spent no time separated from the cord at all, much less changed their media consumption by actually cutting it. With a bit of frustration at the quality of the articles and a bit of pride over how we’ve changed since the beginning of the year, it seemed like time to update our Apple TV/Roku experience here and throw our perspectives into the mix.
We have an Apple TV in the living room, and two Rokus elsewhere in the condo. We currently have paid subscriptions to Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu and CBS All Access. We also regularly view content via the free apps from PBS, ABC, NBC, CW, Red Bull Sports, CBS News, ABC News, Crackle and probably a few others. We subscribed to the Tribeca Shortlist app for a while, but since it lapsed when my card expired and I didn’t notice for several weeks, it doesn’t seem to have been that important to us and is now gone. Also departed is Sling, which we never really liked but had for a month to get NBC live Olympics coverage.
Even before we cut DirecTV out of our lives, we seldom watched live programming – regularly scheduled shows were DVRed for our convenience. Now that same programming is stored on other people’s servers and accessible throughout Casa instead of residing in a little hard drive under the TV, and limited to that one TV. We lost a few fringe networks’ content in the process (looking at you SyFy and Bravo), and picked up some new content (Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee! Why had I never heard of this?). Live breaking news on the TV is limited to great apps from CBS and ABC, though with separate internet sources I’m not sure my news sources will ever truly be limited again. At least not in this lifetime. Sports are there through ESPN and CBS Sports, but there’s certainly not as much as on our last DirectTV package.
Now that the context is there, back to the rant. CBS All Access announced a new tier of service, eliminating commercials from streaming content (but not from live content) for an extra fee. The articles that set me off fell into two categories: those that wondered why they didn’t do it for live coverage, and those that assumed that all streaming coverage was commercial free already. There were comparisons to Hulu, but nothing I read noted that Hulu does the exact same thing for streaming content (commercials unless you pay an extra fee). HBO and Netflix just don’t air commercials (except promoting their own programming). That said, we don’t watch the CBS live stream very often: it’s just a rebroadcast of our local CBS affiliate. The only reason to watch would be local news, but even at that, live streaming network coverage is unique to the CBS app. They’re the only one’s that do it. It just seems ridiculous to run them down for not having one feature be as expansive as I’d like even though no one else will even offer me that feature.
Take NBC for example. Much of their programing is available on Hulu, but not all, and arguably not their best (Blacklist). Most of their only official offerings for the Olympics were for non cord cutters, i.e., people who also pay a monthly fee to a cable company such as parent company Comcast. The delayed broadcasts on NBC Sports were generally spoiled. The Sling subscription let us watch events live but with no ability to pause or rewind, and no ability to choose individual events.
Quite simply, NBC left money on the table in the case of people like us. Where CBS streamed the Super Bowl free for all takers (yes, with commercials), NBC simply failed to create realistic options for viewers like us.
We haven’t decided yet whether we’ll pay CBS more money to remove commercials from their stream. Right now they simply aren’t that intrusive: nothing political, nothing local, and mostly promos for their other series. But overall, they seem to be the old school network that’s closest to getting the new era right (with ABC a close second). Their library might be the smallest of the four we pay for, but there’s good content not available elsewhere, at $5.99 per month we use it, and it’s been worth the expense. And bluntly, they should give Corden anything he wants to make him stay at the Late Late Show for years to come. As with the Olympics, some programming is worth paying for.
Sharing Pics Is So Much Easier Than Writing
While waiting for our outstanding Hummer tour of Sedona to start, Randy and I sat on a bench at the strip mall to enjoy a bit of shade. As Randy posted on the Facebook:
So this just happened…
Charles Hartley and I sitting together on a bench in the shade>
Dude: “You guys got it right! Let your wives shop while you guys sit and relax!”
Us: ……<stunned silence>
I was this close to saying something.
A few minutes later, we walked over to our waiting Hummer. It turns out we were the only two passengers on this evening’s tour. I introduced us to the tour guide using the super secret codewords from the Gay Agenda, 2008 edition: “This is my husband, Randy.” Doug (tour guide extraordinaire) responded, admittedly unexpectedly, by asking how long we’d been together, then offering that he’d been with his own partner for over thirty years but just gotten legally married a year ago.
Arizona tried to live down to my stereotypes, but then in a quick flash proved me completely wrong and just as guilty of bad assumptions as the redneck who doesn’t like shopping with his wife. Loving Sedona.
Checking for a Pulse
Yes, there’s still a pulse to this old site. It’s not the site, it’s me.
Business has been busy, puppies are being entertaining and distracting, and I’m getting older and slower at everything except lap swimming. I still love this site, but my attention span has definitely been leaning more toward the ability to write a quick photo caption than something long-form over here. Not to mention a preference for posts I can do from an iPad or iPhone instead of sitting at the desk.
We’ll be heading out in a few days for our first two-puppy full-family multi-day roadtrip (accepting over-under bets on how many times Onofre pukes in the car between here and Sedona) and hopefully some time poolside faking a lack of internet connection will kickstart the focus and attitude a bit.
There is life beyond pictures of the puppies, despite what they’d lead you to believe.
Video for the 21st Century
Santa was kind enough to bring us one of the new 4th generation Apple TV boxes this year. We’d considered it a nice potential add-on, with some streaming video options plus the added benefit of streaming music through the home theater speakers downstairs. Thought it could be fun so we told Santa about it; but it wasn’t so essential as to spend $150 ourselves. Instead within two weeks we dumped our DirecTV and switched completely to streaming (with a backup antenna for the local stations).
It came down to money and how we watch video. We didn’t watch that much live anymore, generally DVRing the shows we liked and watching them at our convenience. Live TV was reserved for background noise. And for DirecTV and Netflix we were paying roughly $100 per month or $1200 per year. We kept Netflix, grabbed an HBO Now account ($4 per month cheaper than DirecTV charges for HBO access) and picked up Hulu and CBS All Access accounts. We can watch any show we used to watch within 24 hours of its broadcast debut, and greatly expanded our access to old shows, back catalogs, and some new-to-us shows I’d never heard about. I don’t know what’s different in the box, but the steaming has fewer stalls and issues than DirecTV or our Roku boxes ever had. Even if a source doesn’t have a specific Apple TV app any content that we can watch on the iPad or iPhone can be steamed to the home theater over AirPlay (we watched the Rose Parade that way, wirelessly streaming the KTLA coverage through an iPad to the big screen).
The big technical change that seems to make it work is Siri. “Find Russell Tovey” leads me to both Being Human (UK version, of course) on Hulu and Looking on HBO (but unfortunately not his Doctor Who appearances). The box doesn’t waste my time trying to sell me apps I don’t have (glaring at you, DirecTV), but knows what I do have and shows me the included options, whether they’re currently free or need an additional payment (rent or buy).
The total cashflow out comes to $37 per month. Several very good apps have no monthly charges at all (yay PBS). We could save about $750 per year, or blow it all on PPV and iTunes purchases. I can imagine a betting line on whether I’ll blow most of that on the back catalog of Teen Wolf in some moment of weakness. I think the total package will probably shift a bit over the next year as new apps appear (Amazon Prime?) and CBS will either have to expand their offerings or get to a more competitive price point.
While it’s been great for the first two weeks, I can’t wait to see where streaming video and a la carte channel subscriptions go over the next few years. It’s certainly one of those areas where I think things are only going to get better for the consumer.
Started off the New Year with our traditional romp at Del Mar. It was their 30th annual Penguin Plunge, and our tenth. Had a great time (plus cocoa and donuts).
Hope y’all are starting 2016 as well as we are.
I’ve been down with a respiratory thing for two weeks now, so behind on a lot, but Darth Santa did get his annual excursion to mingle with the little folk, and I’m finally posting some pictures. This year we went to San Diego’s Natural History Museum, with a stop outside the Globe Theater on the walk over.
All of our Darth Santa goodness, old and new, is over in the photo gallery. Have a very Merry Sithmas.